Noise Pop Review: No Age, Grass Widow, Rank/Xerox, Crazy Band 2/26/11
March 1, 2011
Written by Joseph Hayes
About halfway through the second band at the Rickshaw the other night, I was beginning to realize that the night’s lineup was designed as a “punk rock” bill more than anything (mind you, Spin was presenting). Admittedly, I’ve always been slightly uneasy with the connotations of “punk”. To me, it’s become as vague or ironic a descriptor as “indie” or “folk.” I always thought punk ended sometime in the early 80s when hard rock and glam metal began, then grunge, 90s arena rock, and the eventual schism of genres we’ve come to embrace or poke fun at. Were the Talking Heads, Television and The Fall punk? Like Ramones/Sex Pistols punk?
There’s never a good umbrella for it all. Onward. Good music is good music, and good live performances that bring it across are the icing. Speaking of performance, Crazy Band (a self-styled obscurity from L.A.) began the night on a stage propped with two foot piles of crumpled newspaper, random billboard flyers, and basically just shit everywhere. As the band started (and by started, I mean each musician sounded like they were playing a different song while simultaneously talking to one another in valley-girl-on-crack dialect), their leader of ceremonies, sporting various florescent traffic guard wear, emerged from the pile of newspapers scouring the stage for a supposed set list lost amidst the rubble.
Within moments, said leader started a four person mosh pit offstage, while chanting some of the band’s mantras and/or song names including (in no particular order): “can you lick yer own boob,” “i’m so excited, i’m gonna die,” “boyfriend dumped you today because cuz yer gay,” and so on. At times, it all felt a bit subculturally insular, like imagining a Pop’s Bar v. Lexington Club battle of the bands, but the spectacle of it all was definitely hilarious, and it seemed most of the room couldn’t resist enjoying. And, as Mission Mission noted, in their spare time, CB skates the interstate. Punk Rock? Check.
SF’s relative newcomers Rank/Xerox, a no frills trio who recall early Fall and Minutemen, followed with a super brief set of primal rock tunes. The growing audience seem to relish their tight musicality, especially following CB, though it’s pretty hard to not appear a bit sobering after that kind of act too. The interplay of the members and their angular riffage played well to the ears so hopefully we’ll see more of them around town soon under different circumstances.
So, I had seen Grass Widow outdoors a few times but never inside. I was hopeful that a proper insulated sound set-up would benefit their signature three part harmonies, but by this time of the evening energy was running pretty high, the crowd was loud, their instruments were loud, and when you’re trying to keep up with that level of intensity, it can be a tough equation for any sound guy or band. After repeated requests by the band for more vocals in the monitor, one audience member aptly shouted, “Do you need more monitors in your vocals?”.
Finally shrugging off the sonic limitations, the always charismatic GW played a headline worthy set with the local crowd in the palm of their hands the whole time. While they rarely strayed from their format of super dryly punched bass, descending guitar riffs, and slightly off kilter harmonies, I found myself enjoyably lulled by the simple hypnotic beauty of it all, even if a little samesonginess prevailed.
I saw No Age a few months ago at the New Parrish. That evening was unfortunately marred by sound deficiencies, hella delayed set times, and in turn, underwhelming performances. Whole different story this time. When No Age took the stage tonight, a perfectly balanced soundscape of fuzzy ambience enveloped the room as drummer/vocalist Dean Spunt trounced on his perfectly over-mic’d toms and guitarist Randy Randall layered on the most admirable Sonic Youth-inspired riffs I’ve heard, well, since I saw Thurston play.
And while it may be impossible to maintain such a high throughout the entire set, I witnessed the glow on many of faces in that first twenty minutes. A girl standing in front of me, blushing back and forth with her pals, and looking like a distant cousin to Freaks and Geeks’ Lindsey Weir, was suddenly crowd-surfing by the fourth song in. It was hard to say what inspired her. Was it the vitality of their rendition of “Teen Creeps” that night, the all-encompassing glitchy projection of skaters flashing behind them in some kind of Vans-on-steroids universe, or Spunt and Randall’s warm ball of angsty energy itself? But, Punk Rock? Check.